Interview with Paula C. Lowe of Solo Novo Press

How did Solo Novo come to be a poetry journal?

Solo Novo launched in 2010.  I served as editor and managing editor for the Southern California press, Solo Press.  Solo Novo time-themed journals, Wall Scrawls and 122 Days, drew over 800 submissions from as far away as Kabul, Afghanistan.  Each journal offered war, peace, last moments, first kisses, struggle and recovery, personal and global.

Solo Press has been publishing for 45 years.  Different editors have championed different collections of poetry.  I wanted Solo Novo to publish remarkable, courageous work!

You have collaborated with Jack Remick, Seattle poet and novelist.  How did Jack influence the editorial process at Solo Novo?

I have learned from and written with Jack for many years.  He is a warrior for action-image writing and well-honed craft.  Jack served Solo Novo on the editorial team. He is not afraid to hunt for what is strong-backed and interesting to read.

Which Northwest poets have appeared in Solo Novo?

Kathleen Flenniken’s “IF You Can Read This” was published in Volume 1: Wall Scrawls and nominated for a Pushcart Award.  Northwest poets Douglas Cole, Sylvia Byrne Pollack, Carlos Reyes, Benjamin Schmitt, Bill Yake and Changming Yuan published in Volume 2: 122 Days.  Northwest poets bring diverse and dynamic poems to the mix.  My favorites!

What’s happening with Solo Novo now?

I am now a publisher with BIG YES PRESS. We will be releasing 10 books this year.  Christopher Buckley is guest editor of the next issue of Solo Novo to be released in late 2013.  You can learn more about Solo Press at www.solopress.org.  Look for BIG YES PRESS on facebook/social media as well as www.bigyespress.org.

How does Solo Novo, which brings together such diverse talent, manage to capture a single coordinated aesthetic? In other words, what makes the art of Solo Novo cohesive and aligned between individual members/contributors? If there is no single aesthetic, or if cohesion isn’t a principle, why not?

Themed poetry journals can be tiring unless the theme brings moment and memory into focus for poets.  For each Solo Novo, taunt themes were intentionally confining.  Wall Scrawls put poets next to a cave wall, asked them to write a last letter to the world before the end of everything. Consider James Cushing’s “The Prickly Camel” with its opening line, “The hour’s grown smoky and the/surface of the earth beneath/my bed makes coarse and awkward demands….” Or Rina Ferrarelli who takes us into the kitchen of her youth, asks us to remember “The Bread We Ate.”   122 Days, poems written in the last four months of 2011, forced poets to not only produce new work before it was overworked, but poems open to the random acts of living on the planet at a certain time.  In his poem, “song of a sweat shop worker,” Benjamin Schmitt wrote “I have seen girls piss themselves/on the knitting room floor…” Christine Reilly wrote of the day she became a bird and rued, “When I stopped being human/we could have done it together.”

To accomplish a coordinated aesthetic, the editor and editorial team must have a rare ear for what matters, what needs to be said and what needs to be heard.  I would not say cohesion is a principle. Rather, a memorable themed journal must have a certain flow of story telling that leaves the reader feeling as if he or she has just been around a big fire for the night and out of the darkness came poems and the voices and these have entered the reader, fortified the myth of living, the facts of living, the moments of living.

How does Solo Novo see itself within the confines of the West Coast poetic identity? What about major regions such as PNW/Cascadia and micro regions such as Seattle?

Place and region do inform daily writing for poets.  And West Coast writers are wonderfully cut off from the east.  Between our hiking boots and flip flops, we get out of our cubbies.  Rain and wind and earthquakes and mountains and oceans are familiar.  Coffee and beer and bills and traffic are familiar.  We have often come from somewhere else and chosen to stay “gone.”   For those on the West Coast, place is as important as story in our poems.

The Northwest is a magnificent and moody world of water, mountain, blackberry and traffic.  Seattle is a big quilt with all of its toes in water.  And certainly Northwest poems can include this grand platform or seek the insulation of looking out a window, an isolate frame of reference.  But this very much depends on the poet’s outdoor and indoor life.  During my decades in the Northwest, I lived in San Juan Islands, was stranded in the Goat Rock Wilderness, had an office in the Smith Tower, and moved eight times.

Is there a definite vision Solo Novo ascribes to? Would you say this has changed over the years? Talk about forty five years. Solo Novo must have experienced some dramatic changes.

Small independent presses cannot live by word alone. They have to have a reliable funding source.  In the case of Solo Press, publisher Glenna Luschei, has funded the publications.   Ms. Luschei also endows the University of Nebraska and Prairie Schooner, the university’s literary journal.  Original publications were saddle-stitched and featured photographs of poets and friends.  The journal progressed in the past twenty years to publish many acclaimed poets.  The names of journals reflected the editorial leadership: Café Solo to Solo to Solo Café to Solo Novo.

How would you say, Paula, that your own poetry has impacted the direction of Solo Novo?

I am a story telling poet and often write in voices.   I am informed by voices when I edit.  What a pleasure.  Has this impacted my work?  Yes.  My imagination widens.  Here is a poem of mine just released in vol. 13, Askew.  Is it post WWII or set in Afghanistan or India?  Ruthie’s unraveling breathless voice speaks at the grave…

oh be cursed and dead in war

oh ruthie’s got a dani got a dani got a dani in her belly got a dani oh a dani boy you’ll see

oh ruthie she’s a fireman she’s a fireman oh she climbs them in the hot house she’s an ice cube

and she puts out and she puts out and oh ruthie got a baby in her arms and on her fanny she’s a dandy

and she’s handy and she lets us hold the baby on the doorstep if you want him and you want him so you buy him

and she spends your gold on candy and she spends your gold in graveyards where she sleeps next to her laddie

and her uncle and her daddy and her tears fall on her wet breast and she’s crying for her dani and she’s crying

for her hot house and she’s crying for the licorice that she left atop the blanket where the babies they

were nursing and the mothers they were nursed and the fathers they were dead in war,

oh be cursed and dead in war, oh dani boy, oh dani.

© Paula C. Lowe

Askew, vol. 13, Fall/Winter 2013

Paula C Lowe

Paula C. Lowe is a Midwest, Northwest, Central Coast poet and fiction writer. Her poems appear in Askew, The Iowa Review , Dogwood,Sow’s Ear, Solo Cafe, Bird as Black as the Sun, New Times, and her collaborative book, Poems For Endangered Places. Her non-fictionbooks include CarePooling, Parenting For Education® and several others. She has presented at many, many conferences and trained thousands of people. She was the managing editor of Solo Press and its literary journal, Solo Novo. In 2012, Paula left Solo to launch BIG YES Press with Dian Sousa and Sylvia Alcon. www.bigyespress.org will announce first books in March with our beach launch, “donuts, beer and photo-op” on March 10th. Join us at Morro Rock Beach at 11 after the surfers dry off.

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